Naina Jha is the Program and Outreach Officer at Patna. She is a PR professional working with Greymatters Communications. She has worked with hospitals, advertising and PR agencies and has been working with ICWA to educate slum kids since 2005. She has also worked as a freelancer with Gender Resource Centre, Patna. She loves working for the uplifting of slum children and gender sensitisation and wishes to make this society a better place to live in. She is a budding writer, avid learner, traveller, and a happy soul. A sociology graduate who holds a masters degree in human resources, she has a few more degrees up her sleeves but most importantly she is a mother to a beatific little angel.
Talking about Puberty and Menstruation
Naina Jha conducted a workshop on ‘Puberty and Menstruation’ for 22 students of Std VIIth at S R Vidyapeeth School in Patna on 1st July, 2017. She writes,
“The workshop began with each one introducing themselves. I began by asking them what they thought of the word ‘touch’ and if there were differences in touch. Some said that if an unknown person were to touch their body then that was an unsafe or bad touch but if a known person touched them, it was a good touch. Some remarked that if anyone were to touch their private parts it was a bad touch. So I helped clear the concept of safe and unsafe touch by showing them a video called Komal which also addressed the issue of Child Sexual Abuse in a way that was easy for children to understand.
Moving further, I asked them what they understood by ‘puberty’. Most of them hadn’t even heard the word before. I explained that bodily changes occur as we grow older and this was all a part of puberty. I then asked them to jot down what changes their body experienced. They listed changes like growth of armpit hair, beards, moustaches, periods, breasts and so on. I explained that these changes took place because their bodies were maturing from children to adults and this transformation from childhood to maturity, known as puberty, is a phase that everyone goes through, some a little earlier or later than others it. Once again we went through their lists of bodily changes which included development and growth of muscles, height, weight, tougher skin, growth of hair in the armpits and genital area, growth of genital organs, breasts and periods begin. I pointed out a few changes that they hadn’t included in their lists like sweating, acne, widening of girls’ hips and so on. I enquired about the thoughts and feelings they went through during this transformation phase to which one boy replied said he was irritable more often than before. Some girls replied that they felt very dirty and irritated while menstruating because of the pain and cramps. I explained that feelings like anger, curiosity, irritation that they felt during this phase was quite normal. I also explained that while one goes through puberty, they may feel attracted towards the opposite sex which is perfectly fine until and unless they were to do something that made the other person uncomfortable.
We then went on to talk about ‘menstruation’ where I explained the term to them, the menstrual cycle, hygienic habits that should be developed and myths associated with it. I also told them about the process of fertilization without which the intrauterine walls shed their lining causing bleeding, which is menstruation and a sign of good health in girls who have reached puberty. While talking about taboos associated with menstruation, the girls told me a few things that they’ve been taught, such as not going to the place of worship while on their period, not being allowed to touch pickle, not washing their hair etc. I told them that I did all of those things even during my period and I was perfectly fine. I suggested that they try to break those taboos too. At the end I spoke to them about PreMenstrual Syndrom (PMS). When a girl enquired about ways on coping with PMS, I told them to involve and engross themselves in something they loved to do like painting, music etc that could help relax their body and mind. I told them to vent out through creativity.
Through the session I realised that both the boys and girls were very quiet and nervous while talking about menstruation since this was the first time it was being talked about so openly with them. I asked them if there was any reason not to discuss it openly to which a girl replied in a hushed voice that menstruating was a personal thing which shouldn’t be discussed with everyone. To help them understand I explained that we talk openly about our urinary, neuro or cardiac system or any other bodily functions and ailments. Likewise, our reproductive system is also a part of our body which we shouldn’t be ashamed of or embarrassed about. It is a completely natural bodily process.”